Excerpt from V.D. Kaviraj’s upcoming epic work
CONCEPTS – QUINTESSENCES
All concepts stand or fall with their ease of understanding and consequent adherence to laws and principles, because events follow cyclical patterns. Many cycles consist of four or six units, such as seasons in the four climate bands that circle the earth or the seasons that may prevail in some of them.
We know from the fact these cycles of four exist, that a fifth – the originating intelligence – needs to be added to the equation. However, this is not the type of quintessence we speak about here.
Here we speak about quintessence’s that can be expressed easiest in five short, terse aphorisms, which by themselves depict truths about the scientific idea they convey and which together explain the entire concept in broad lines. We will meet many of them in these pages regarding diseases, elementary substances, elemental concepts and in the application of the Law of Similars. In this chapter we will give a few of them.
For practical application we have set up this section from the point of view that plant communities form close-knit relationships between all the members.
1. It begins above the surface, with the climate and the weather. Below the surface in the soil we have a fauna and flora, consisting of many billions of living entities which all influence plant life.
2. These include the micro and macro nutrients, the fungi, both of protective and antagonistic perspective such as rusts, slimes, moulds and the like, the subsoil parasites and beneficial animals, the bacteria and viruses and finally the allelopathic chemicals, which help suppress weeds, provide for pest and disease protection and function as stress regulators determining seeding, growth and flowering as well as fruit, nut or seed production.
3. Above ground we have the direct protective and antagonistic plants or companions and weeds, the insects, both beneficial and antagonistic, such as pollinators predators and pests, We also include a section on injuries and the pollution of soil, water and air, which with the appropriate remedies may be alleviated when crops grow on contaminated soils or in heavily polluted areas.
4. Each plant is an expression of the consciousness we experience after partaking of the remedy derived from it. It has its particular mentality and emotional life and is as such a sick individual, specifically in the artificial environment we have created for it. Hence its relationships tend to follow those as expressed in the material medica and what is not there, we can discover by studying the relevant literature.
5. From the material medica we can learn about relationships in communities of plants and the elements they partake of during their life, known from agricultural literature, while from research in allelochemicals and their actions on plant life, much can be learned and deduced about how everything is connected. Even a simple herbal can teach much about relationships between remedies in the garden and in material medica.
These are the quintessential points this book hopes to explain with examples from practice and experience. Throughout these pages, the reader will come across more of these quintessential concepts and they form the basis on which the entire edifice is built. If we observe nature, we see that 5 elements form the engineering structure of all life and these are:
1. Helium, which is the male/female principle or Aether.
2. Oxygen, Air we all need to breathe.
3. Hydrogen, Water we must drink and of which 70% of the body consists.
4. Iron, Fire of digestion and oxidation, providing energy.
5. Silicon, Earth, the building blocks like bones, teeth hair and nails and finally the skin.
This is exactly as the ancients saw it and confirmed by daily life. Elsewhere we have extended somewhat more on these principles and need not explain further here.
Here also the quintessential is of prime importance in understanding the problems faced in agriculture, although to the superficial observer they have little or nothing to do with each other. Quintessentials have in common that they express the same type of principle in a concise and terse manner, which leaves little to the imagination and everything to careful observation.
Another quintessence that comes up frequently is the one on the Law of Similars, on which this entire work is based. It follows the adage that what happens in nature must be imitated by man according to the following five Rules.
1. Like produces like. Monkeys don’t give birth to humans.
2. Like is attracted by like. Monkeys have sex with monkeys.
3. Like is imitated by like. Monkeys have as much sex as some humans and humans often try to have more.
4. Like is neutralised by like. Try making love to a monkey.
5. Like is cured by like. Better stick to your own kind.
Societies of plants seek each other, but they also seek man, because like attracts like – what is in the same vibration of consciousness will invariably seek each other and find them too. The domestication of plants is a logical outcome of man collecting himself around wild grains, which he then began to grow to feed ever-more mouths. Just as grains grow around man, man grows around grains.
It is also often said that the weed that grows abundantly in the garden of a sick man will be his medicine, from which we can learn that plants are attracted by similarities in consciousness and mentality for their favourite places of growth. A little anecdote from my case-books will illustrate this perfectly.
I once had a Scottish friend, who had relations with one of the biggest dope dealers in the vicinity. This man was a rough type, who drank whiskey like water and smoked joints like a chimney. He was rough in the mouth and had the raspiest voice I ever heard. He had a problem – he had an eczema that itched him no end. Could I help him?
Sure, why not? Better than the priest who condemns the sinner, the doctor treats friend and foe – he does not ask how one make one’s income. He asks what type of work he does. When the answer is import export, the doctor may know exactly what is meant. On arrival at the man’s house I saw the yard was overgrown with nettles. I said nothing, but went inside, where the roughneck was drinking whiskey and trying to order his wife around. The living room was huge and a fire burning in the open fireplace, to which the host had stretched his feet and was busily scratching himself voluptuously. His wife asked what I could do for him. So I told her he should get a flogging with nettles, to get rid of his itch. At that he pulled out a gun and told me he’d shoot off my head if I so much as even thought about it. I told him I had a present for him and handed him a few bottles of Glenfiddich, his favourite malt. So we fed him so drunk, he passed out and slid from his crapaud on the floor and was unconscious. Then we went into the garden wearing rubber gloves and cut many bunches of nettles. These we brought inside, then stripped the fellow and flogged him with the nettles till he was swollen and red. We covered him with a blanket and let him get out of his booze. Then I left for the night with my friend to his place and the next day back home.
The next day he called and even his voice was smoother. He had lost the desire to brag and swear and told me his skin was as smooth as a baby’s. If I could come by to get my pay. I told him I did not require to have my head blown off with a big sawn-off shotgun. He told me it was a joke and please come – he is embarrassed by his threat and needs to show his gratitude. Even his wife had asked me to come by. I told him I would be back in six weeks. When I came back, I visited him again. The garden was almost free of nettles. I asked him whether he had cut them down. “No” he says, they had gone by themselves. He had two more flogs by his wife and then by the second time they were almost gone. His wife told me he was much nicer and softer now and his business was booming. Even she had changed, and was much more relaxed. That consciousness left the man and the nettles left with it.
Our hunger for food keeps our relationship with the plants reasonably intact, insofar as we respond to its need for nutrients in one form or another. The preferred method is to apply a massive dose of nutrients at once, in a form that is but slowly dissolved in water, thus appearing to keep nutrient levels fairly constant. In nature this never happens, because natural systems are always in flux. Soil is moreover more than a medium to support plants and to suspend nutrients in, it has to be adequate to the degree of development, which is also in constant flux. To favour one type or even a mix of nutrients over others to enhance development, comes at the cost of many drawbacks, such as pest and disease susceptibility or pest and disease-promoting circumstances. Such one-sided junk food may seem to promote health, but produces instead weak obese plants prone to all kinds of problems such as diseases, retarded or accelerated blooming and fruit setting, without taking into account the ultimate readiness of the crop. The result is a watery taste, without the necessary aromas and subtle sensations that organically grown food gives to the palate.
With homoeopathy, the taste of everything you grow will greatly improve, because the necessary balance underground is equally dependent on that remedy for its complete development. A remedy to control nematodes will act like it is supposed to, because the plant does that in its daily life. Nematicides, even from so-called biological sources, see the nematode as the problem that must be killed, while we (homeopaths) see the nematode as the result of an unbalanced pattern of life. It can be reinforced by the imitation of a natural pattern that is balanced and provides optimum control of all elements in the crop cycle, without adding poisons to the environment. Then the nematode will go its way without attacking our crops, because the remedy has put the plant in an invulnerable position.
ELEMENTARY, MY DEAR WATSON!
Four elements are needed by all living entities – earth, fire, water and air. Another way of explaining that the views of the Middle Ages were not as superstitious as most scientists want us to believe is found in the following:
It is interesting and for practical purposes very important, that more than ninety-five percent of the universe consists of the following very few elements.
First of all, the spectroscopy of the universe shows that helium is exceptionally abundant. It is widely distributed. Helium is nothing more than the primordial positive and negative electrons tied together, or in the process of being tied.
Secondly, the same spectroscopy shows that helium is enormously prevalent and everywhere present, although it does not combine with anything and is almost the lightest of the elements. It does not even combine with itself. The earth has retained little of it. If you however look at the radioactive elements and the alpha particle given off by them, you discover it is nothing but helium. Therefore, it must have a particular prevalence, even on earth, for it is part of the structure of the heavy elements.
Thirdly, Hydrogen is the next abundant element, which forms water with the next – oxygen. The spectral lines we see in the heavens are caused by hydrogen, oxygen and nitrogen. Oxygen constitutes fifty-five percent of the earth’s crust and it has about the same proportion in meteorites. Oxygen and nitrogen have nearly the same atomic weight. For the purpose of this explanation, we shall regard them as one. Between oxygen and helium, there are no abundant elements, and you should note this. True, carbon has some prevalence, but having almost the same atomic number, we could say it is a satellite to oxygen.
Fourthly and lastly, we see that nearly all the meteorites consist of oxygen, well over fifty percent; magnesium, at thirteen percent; silicon, fifteen percent and iron, at thirteen percent. Three quarters of the crust is composed of three elements – oxygen at fifty-five percent, silicon at sixteen percent and aluminium at five percent. The others do not have more than two percent each. Iron, supposedly abundant in the core, has one and a half percent.
Aluminium, silicon and magnesium have similar atomic weights, so we give them combined the name silicon, which after all, is the peak of the period, falling in group five. Between oxygen and silicon and between silicon and iron, there are no abundant elements. Iron has an atomic weight of fifty-six.
Now from the point of view of an engineer, the universe is made up of positive and negative electrons; helium and four elements built out of them, oxygen, hydrogen, silicon and iron. Differently expressed, they are aether, air, water, earth and fire, exactly as the ancients described it and which we regard as superstition. Besides, the ancient Greeks knew all about those elements. Here is a quote.
“And they allowed Apollonius to ask questions and he asked them of what they thought the cosmos was composed. But they replied:
“Are there then four” he asked.
“Not four,” said Iarchas, “but five.”
“And how can there be a fifth,” said Apollonius,” alongside of water, air, earth and fire ?”
“There is the ether”, replied the other, “which we must regard as the stuff of which gods are made, for just as all mortal creatures inhale the air, so do immortal and divine natures inhale the ether.”
Apollonius again asked which was the first of the elements, and Iarchas answered:
“All are simultaneous, for a living creature is not born bit by bit.”
“Am I,” said Apollonius, “to regard the universe as a living creature?”
“Yes,” said the other, “if you have a sound knowledge of it, for it engenders all living things.”
(‘The Life of Apollonius of Tyana’, Philostratus, 220AD).
What is more, others also are of the same mind – as is due to great minds, according to the saying.
‘For a truly joyful and auspicious human work to flourish, must man have the capacity to climb from the depths of his attachment at home up to the ether. Ether here stands for the high flight of the high heavens, the open realm of the spirit.’
(Martin Heidegger, ‘Treatise on human thought’)
For plants this is the essential – hydrogen; water – oxygen; air – silica; earth – iron: fire.
What else is fire but oxidation? What else is earth but construction and glue? What else is air but respiration and breath? What else is water, but food and drink? So we trace back the need for nutrients to these four elements. The fifth is the commanding force, so to speak, from where all ideas come forth, either as remembrance from previous existence or obtained by talent.
1. General Remedies
In this Chapter we discuss the remedies that are important to all plants. In the plant world, some elemental substances are essential to all plants. First we discuss the essential components of these subsoil events.
1. Micronutrients and Macronutrients and their associated remedies, all from the subsoil area.
2. Fungi, also from the subsoil area.
3. Bacteria and bacilli, having the same source.
4. Viruses also from the soil.
5. Allelochemicals, coming from plant roots.
Another quintessential relation has been established and the consequences are equally far reaching. For they indicate a quintessential set of influences, which may consist of many different species and in very large numbers, which can be controlled by these very same substances.
The relationship between these remedies is explained as producing similar phenomena, because they live under similar circumstances, although they may react to allelochemicals differently than our crop. What is related in nature always seeks each other and so we see that plant societies are formed, in which similar states of mind are grouped together. After all, similar plants grow on similar soils and have their friendships and enmities, just like humans. We have seen that certain plants growing on acidic soils have cravings for certain elements, which are moreover hard to get – those of the alkaline type. Hence these relationships between soils, elements, plant communities and allelochemicals is reflected by similarity in the relationship between remedies.
To further work out how these remedies are related we have to consider the fact that nearly all plants require microelements of a particular class as well as macronutrients of a particular class. As we saw at the description of the functions of the elemental component, some are related to growth and others are related to flowering and fruit setting. These same relations are found in the macronutrients. Recent research has shown that plants chatter and communicate with their community when attacked by a disease or pest. We have read in the introduction about these phenomena and seen that there are some differences and many similarities with human and animal societies.
These phenomena are important in more than one way. We see certain remedies with a very pronounced picture first, followed by their antidotes, and similars. This is reflected in nature, where we see the nettle and its antidote growing right next to each other. In agriculture, we should imitate nature, with doses so small as to elicit a reaction and thus have the best manageable agriculture. Space age agriculture consists of the manageable use of poisonous substances as produced in the relationships discovered in nature, to imitate as much as possible that natural setting. Instead of unmanageable poisons and an external approach, as is wont in chemical agriculture, homoeopathy has made those and any other poison manageable, and because of its extensive knowledge about relationships in nature is capable of presenting the truly integrated approach to garden problems.
Some plants are genuine companions while others are antagonistic. The same counts for elements, insects, fungi and allelochemicals, which all combine to provide a comprehensive picture of the normal environment. We proceed from the soil and the elements, next the companion plants, then come the insects, the soil fungi and the plant excretions. Each is discussed from the point of view as an individual remedy first, followed by a paragraph explaining its place and function within the community of plants. Thus the relations are explained and enable one to understand the role of each in connection with the remedy under discussion
There are basically 4 main climate zones:
1. Arctic, not here under discussion;
3. Subtropical and
Within these 4 zones, we have many further differences –
A) A coastal climate,
B) An inland climate
C) A land climate
D) A desert climate, each with its own weather type. Within these different landscapes we may also have
^) Mountains, where each valley may have different weather at any one time.
<) River-delta climate.
We then follow with the use of the soil below.
~>:P Grazed Savanna
~!!&) mixed culture
We may have a tropical coastal river delta, a 4A< or a 2B*, a moderate inland hilly landscape. In the first case, we have long warm summers, with not too much rain and a landscape that is cool on the hilltops and warm in the valleys. Rivers may modify the moisture content of the air and soil. It is the latter which determines its use. If it is also forested it becomes 2B*!!. If there is a mixed culture it becomes 2B*!!&
The landscape below determines the microclimate at local spots. A desert with its alkaline soil will not receive rain at all, or may have seasonal downpours. A highly acidic rainforest jungle receives abundant water; a neutral agricultural area receives sometimes too much and at others too little, but generally enough. Dependent on the soil pH below, the weather will adapt to the local circumstances, creating microclimates, all within its moderate, subtropical and tropical climate zones.
We can therefore say that within the 3 climate zones under discussion here, we have 4further subdivisions and 5 more micro-climatological concomitants as enumerated above. That makes for 400 plus different climate and weather conditions we may be confronted with, within which landscape features may further influence microclimate.
We can imagine to have a 2A* landscape or a 4B!! landscape and we discover also differences in microclimate, simply because a hilly coastal landscape has different soil conditions from a tropical rainforest and thus a different flora, fauna and above all climate. The tropical rainforest could never grow on those moderate coastal hills, while most of what grows on these hills would not long survive or even germinate in that rainforest. We see that each has particular constraints where it concerns the development of a plant community. These constraints begin of course with the climate and weather while also extending into the surrounding vegetation and the subsoil events, which are not of less importance, but simply less visible to us.
Of course the soil determines the type of plant that will grow there, but the climate constraint takes care of details that man likes to forget. Hence we see that Australian plants all have a leathery feel and are tough, have waxy flowers and do not lose the leaves at the onset of winter – they are evergreen, while European deciduous trees have soft leaves, that wilt easily in the dry climate there, have flowers that stand no longer than two days in the climate zone and moreover lose their leaves at the moment they would need them the most – during the wet season, which is the deciduous tree’s rest period. Although it will grow and become large, it does not live under conditions that are entirely conducive to its survival. If shaded by native trees, the heat may be bearable, because also Australian forests are cooler than the surrounding land.
Other plants become outright pests when transplanted to places they do not belong. The blackberry is such a plant in Australia, where one is obliged to remove it from one’s soil entirely, because it takes over vast tracts of land. It likes the soil and weather as if made for it and goes rampant wherever it is not checked. Lantana is such a pest and we shall meet this tree again when we discuss the allelochemicals. It fills up empty spaces, but does not compete with the other members in the forest. But wherever it has taken hold, it does not leave and slowly but surely takes over all the other empty spaces that fall into a forest over time, before any other member has that chance.
We do not advocate such transplants from continent to continent, nor do we condemn it outright. We urge caution and to first try out how it grows in an artificial landscape set up in a greenhouse that resembles the climate and weather you want to transplant in. It is full of local plants and you simply plant the wanted tree or other plant in that landscape in the amount normal to make a living. Then leave it alone and see what happens. If after a few years your plant starts to take over, do not import the plant there. If it grows but suffocated, do not transplant this plant – it will give you no end of trouble. Only when the plant has been accepted as a normal member of the plant community and does not die out or take over, can we say we have a successful transplant candidate.
Climate is therefore more than a simple placement within the three zones important for the subject under discussion. It requires taking into account the soil pH and the flora and fauna that populate it, as well as the particular use that is made of that climate condition.
We shall try to enumerate most climate conditions under which some crops grow, which may include more than one. Brassicas are grown all over the world in almost all climate conditions. Wheat is the grain of moderate climate zones, rice that of the tropical zone, while maize lies somewhere in between in the subtropical zone.
Climate is, after soil, the next great regulator of available crops in a particular area at a particular time. Climate is the regulation and occurrence of the weather over a long period of time. Within the climate we see the occurrence of extremes, and a cyclic appearance, as a confirmation of the rule. Climate is what regulates that cycle of life and carries it through to completion, or in a freak event destroys large portions of it.
The weather type is determined mostly by the type of plants that grow underneath and the proximity to the coast. Both make for a wet landscape, since trees attract rain like a magnet attracts iron. We must not forget that a 30 metre high tree processes about 3000 litres of water per day in the summer. Over a forest, millions of tons of water-vapour are released into the air, making it obviously cooler. When one passes portions of forest in the landscape on the road, that difference in temperature is enough to notice for a human – 5 to 7 degrees cooler in the forest. Cooler air is heavier than hot and sinks to the ground, making everything cool and thus of lower pressure. We all know that low pressure on the weather map means rain.
Over river deltas and moors have a similar situation – massive amounts of moving or stagnant water, which is cooler than anything around it and spreading that cooling property along its banks by osmosis and wind. This lowers the pressure and low pressure brings rain.
Over a desert on the other hand, we have the opposite situation – the pressure is always high, due to the absence of any cooling property. Except at night, when that same absence results in the rapid cooling of these hot sands and drops the temperature often below zero and any moisture that may be in the air is instantly frozen and lies as a film of ice crystals over the sand in the morning and is gone before the sun is more than a hand above the horizon. An hour later, it is already 20 degrees. Fifty degrees or higher by noon is no exception. The Sahara has spots where it soars up to almost 70 degrees and I do not mean Fahrenheit.
Evidently, over agricultural land we are more dependent on the landscape itself to enable accurate weather and microclimate predictions. In river valleys we may expect more rain, but as easily see nothing of it, except in the hilly and mountainous regions and on the coast. On the world’s plains grow most of our crops, and here we have created a zone with almost neutral pH, trying to outwit the acidity or alkalinity of the soil to grow crops that actually often require the opposite of the soil we try to grow them in.
Here we have sometimes drought and sometimes floods, while generally we hope for enough at the right time. The amount of water evaporation from a crop is substantially less than that from a forest, a reason to leave trees on pieces of land that are inaccessible and that border the crop. They have, besides a function in weather conditions such as forming windbreaks, also an influence on pests and predator presence and may help to keep weeds off the land.
Weather can make or break the crop and much of what grows around it. Extreme weather can destroy everything in a very short time. Generally we can expect reasonably predictable weather patterns for specific times of the year. This enables us to grow crops to feed the world. From the integrated viewpoint as described here, we must understand every part to sensibly grow these crops.
Soils are extremely diverse in their acidity and composition. The minerals and particles of their construction, organic matter content and other components, are particular to each type of soil and hence their behaviour differs as much.
Moreover, soils differ in their flora and fauna, microbes, fungi, roots, rhizomes and tubers or bulbs. If we understand everything that lives in the soil we can understand the needs of the plants that grow in and above the soil. This makes a piece of soil an individual piece that is different from all other pieces of soil.
Roughly, we divide soil into acidic, alkaline and neutral pH. We shall explain how the soil acidity determines the available nutrients and how certain practices can change the pH of the soil.
The soil pH is important for the plants that grow on it. It expresses the acidity or alkalinity of a soil. Acid soils have a pH<7 and alkaline soils have a pH>7. The pH of a mineral soil lies between 3.5 to 8.5. Organic soils may have a lower pH. It is evident that each requires a particular set of nutrients in a particular consistency. Certain nutrients are less available while others are more abundant. When the pH drops below 6, aluminium can occupy a significant portion of the cation exchange phase of soils, while exchangeable bases such as Ca2+ Mg2+ K+ Na+ are more dominant at higher soil pH. This is because the base saturation rate is greater. Soils with a pH between 8 and 8.5 typically contain calcite. Higher pH levels, such as >9 can occur in arid areas, where one finds high levels of salts of the sodium group. These soils are getting extended throughout the Australian outback, where short sighted people have cut down the large swathes of forest for gaining new agricultural lands, because the ones they had cut down already gave harvests only for a few years.
There is a general trend of decreasing base saturation and increasing saturation with acidic ions such as Al3+ and H+ as the pH decreases. The sources of protons that contribute to the decline in soil pH and increasing soil acidity include atmospheric deposition of acids such as H2SO4 and NHO3 generated from atmospheric reactions between water and gaseous NOX and SOX from fossil fuel emissions, H2CO3 produced from aqueous dissolution of atmospheric CO2 or biologically produced CO2 and biological activity, such as respiration, production of organic acids, nitrification of mineralised N or ammonium fertilisers and imbalances in cation and anion uptake by plants. The rate of soil acidification is related to the rates of acid inputs versus the soil buffering capacity. Soil pH is mainly buffered by the dissolution of calcite and other carbonates at a pH >7, cation exchange of bases by H+ and Al3+ or their hydrolysis species at a pH 7 to 5, dissolution of Al-bearing minerals at a pH<4. Phytotoxicity of simple organic acids is most evident in acidic conditions when organic acids are protonated, meaning neutral in charge and this toxicity is lost when organic acids are partially dissociated under neutral and basic conditions or negatively charged.
These soils have a high pH, 7.5 or higher. The acidity is expressed as a scale that runs from 4.5 to 9, whereby 6.5-7 is considered neutral and the lower alkaline, while the higher depict acidic soils. They attract oxalate plants and those that like acidic soils, many of which are weeds. However, many of our crops also like a rather acidic soil, which is often made more so by the use of swine and chicken manure. This has an influence on the nutrients, of which the alkaline may have deficiencies. The nutrients that are alkaline in nature are harder to obtain than those that work through acids, such as Nitrogen. Potassium and Calcium salts may also be in short supply, while the phosphates are all plenty available. Manganese may be hard to get too, since the acidity hinders its uptake. Liming is a good method to make acidic soils more neutral in pH. This soil demands horse manure, for its alkaline qualities. This already tells us much about the above-ground plants – their shapes, their functions and their habitat within the plant community.
The acids are all decomposers and destroyers, which does not mean they are necessarily bad. Many processes cannot take place without the use of acids, the most important of which is perhaps respiration, which runs on the Citric acid cycle and has 7 acids in that cycle to enable uptake of necessary nutrients and processing of carbohydrates to sugars and proteins.
A soil with a neutral pH will attract other plants and be better for different crops than the acidic or alkaline soils. They support plants that are in need of balanced diets of nutrients and whereby the excess of one or the other is mostly due to human failure. These excesses help in the build-up of pest populations. Excess Kali and Phosphorus always result in aphid population explosions. That what we do to one part, we do to all parts, is no more obvious than in this instance. Everything therefore depends on everything else and each part must be taken into account.
Neutral Ph soils have all nutrients available, but not always at the right time. This can be manipulated by using the remedies from the nutrient class or some of the companion plants, which have great influence over nutrient availability, such as Chamomilla. Crops may have requirements at other times that can be manipulated to advantage. Neutral pH is often considered the best soil for growing crops, but this is also dependent on the consideration of the necessity for plants to have more acidic or alkaline soils to grow in. In general though, the notion stands with many crops.
Alkaline soils have opposite characteristics to the acidic types. Here the trouble is not found in the uptake of Phosphorus, Calcium, Carbon and Kali. More, the acidic nutrients are difficult to get at and they must be supplied with swine and chicken manure. Horse manure will here be contraindicated, since it is an alkaline manure. Plants that like Carbon, Calcium and Kali thrive on these soils and their predators and pests will be of a different nature. Humidity may be a problem and so may excessive salts.
Excessive salts are only formed in extremely alkaline soils, such as a desert biome. A desert biome can however easily be created by faulty farming practices. Denuding a soil of trees may seem to be a smart move, but by not adding any organic matter to the soil it will soon be depleted. A soil is always more than a medium to grow plants in and suspend nutrients in. A mineral soil has advantages over an acidic one in the availability of nutrients, but this can also be a disadvantage, attracting pests for instance.
Acidic nutrients such as nitric acid and decomposition of ammonium salts to nitrogen may sometimes be problematic. Too little acidity may cause other problems and the defence against fungi is not well established. On the other hand, fungi will be less of a problem in non-acidic soils. Alkaline environments have more problems with the sodium salts and here the remedies from the Natrium series can do much to alleviate problems. Phosphorus and magnesium are other elements that help antidote excessive salination. The problems associated with salination may be more difficult to remove than those of acidity.
Carbonates are among the best remedies for alkaline soils. Natrum carbonicum, Calcarea carbonicum, Kali carbinicum and so on all are important remedies for the alkaline soils. They form part of the carbon group of remedies, which are all connected with growth and structure building and through their acids in reduction cycles with Co and CO2. Carbon dioxide is an important greenhouse gas that is said to be responsible for climate change. In the introduction we shall further elucidate on this phenomenon, which we think is due to other causes and has different solutions, one of which is the abandonment of fossil fuels as the energy source to drive this planet.
Carbolic acid and many of the phenols and resins from plants and trees are powerful homoeopathic remedies in agriculture. They are all carbon based and all partake of construction and maintenance in the living systems. Carboneum and Carbon itself are also important remedies for these type of soils. We shall enumerate the different substances that can be used as remedies and which are derived from Elemental Carbon. Those we already use have been marked with an asterik *.
1. * Acetic acid.
2. Acetylsalysilicum acidum.
3. * Ammonium aceticum.
4. * Azadirachta indica.
7. Benzinum dinitricum
8. Benzinum nitricum
9. Benzinum petroleum
10. Calcarea acetica
11. * Calcarea carbonica
12. Calcarea lactica
13. Calcarea oxalica
14. * Camphora.
15. * Carbo vegetabilis
16. Carbolicum acidum.
18. Carboneum oxygenisatum
19. Carboneum sulphuratum.
20. * Citricum acidum
22. Croton chloralum.
23. Cuprum aceticum.
24. * Eucalyptus
25. * Formicum acidum.
26. * Gallicum acidum.
29. Ketoglutaricum acidum
30. * Kreosotum.
32. * Lacticum acidum.
33. * Magnesia acetica.
34. * Manganum aceticum
35. * Mentha piperita
39. Natrium pyruvicum.
40. * Natrum salicylicum.
41. Oleum Santali.
42. * Oxalicum acidum
47. * Salicylicum acidum.
48. Tannicum acidum.
49. * Tartaricum acidum.
51. Terebinthina chios.
52. Terebinthina laricina
54. * Urea pura.
55. Uricum acidum.
From this list we can derive 35 new remedies that are useful in the treatment of plants, without even considering their intrinsic qualities and characteristics, because these remedies all are carbon-based and as such important parts of the structure of the living universe. They can help us solve the problems associated with growing crops, although some are fossil-fuel based. Even if we leave those out, we still have sufficient remedies to choose from. If we consider these form but a fifth at most of the compounds listed in the homoeopathic literature, we understand we have many more remedies to choose from. Although at present little or nothing is known about them for plants, from the family relationship we can make some predictions, especially if the individual parts of the compound have been known to homoeopathy before. While anthropomorphising helps at times, it is not an important part of the entire picture. We rely more on an alchemical viewpoint of signature, which is a valid means to arrive at conclusions, because these conclusions have invariably been confirmed and verified in practise.
Excerpt from V.D. Kaviraj’s upcoming epic work
True science means that the subject under investigation is studied in its totality. All attempts at isolation and reduction of the related parts renders the scientific endeavour a meaningless mumbo-jumbo of unrelated events. The homoeopathic approach to the problems met with in growing plants, whether grown for food or as an exercise in recreation, is scientific in the true sense of the word. It studies pests and diseases, as well as soil problems as symptoms of a totality within the environment. The totality includes the medium in which the plant grows, the climate and weather patterns, the availability of water, nutrients and the occurrence of other organisms in that whole environment, which is the local habitat in the ecosystem.
Soils are as different as people. They possess different compositions, such as mineral soils, clay, sand, organic soils, and their moisture content and nutritional capacity. They also behave in a different manner and attract various amounts of rain.
They also contain living organisms such as microbes and fauna, plant organisms such as roots, rhizomes tubers and bulbs. If we therefore want to understand a given process within any type of soil, for example allelopathic interaction, leading to differences in nutrient uptake or plant development, then that entire process must be viewed in its totality within the constraints of that soil. Therefore, each soil is different from any other soil and none are alike. In one paddock we may encounter two different soils, because local constraints have made it so in the past. No matter what else we try to do, the basic structure of the soil can only be changed by organic matter. It is organic matter which makes a soil a viable medium to grow crops in and any other soil will have to be helped by large doses of chemical fertiliser.
But what if we can change all this, by using these compounds and acids, these auxins and phenols, gibberellins and other pheromones that the plant world has at its disposal to create a natural environment, without poisoning the earth?
The first question must always be the dose, since it depends on the dose whether we poison or cure, as Paracelsus already knew in the 15th Century. Homoeopathy offers the advantage of complete control over the dose of any given substance to be used as a means to simply draw away the forces that otherwise eat our crops before they even come to the table. By applying to the soil the remedies found in that soil, we can imitate a natural setting in which the plant is the focus of attention, because the soil of which we speak can only hold a limited amount of species within the constraints of pH and available nutrients and our crop must be one of them.
To generalise on a larger scale than we do at present, we accept the scientific view that similar soils will generate similar circumstances in regards to nutrient availability, allelochemicals present, fungi and bacteria and/or viruses present, and the components of the soil we already listed above. Hence there have been scientific studies on how allelochemicals act in different types of clay. While such a reductionist approach as above may be useful, it does not tell us about interactions of the soil components and is thus limited in its view.
We may from this fact deduce several general principles.
1. Similar soils have similar pH.
2. Similar soils have similar nutrient availability.
3. Similar soils attract similar plants.
4. Similar plants emit similar allelochemicals.
5. Similar substances will act in a similar manner on plants grown in similar soils.
Here we have the quintessential points of these paragraphs which show that the situation above-ground is a reflection of the situation in the soil and the remedies made from the plants above the ground will have medicinal relationships between them, at least for plants. All elements from the habitat can be used to alleviate any problem the crop is suffering from. An entire range of substances can be used to target a specific pest or disease and the results are completely beyond one’s wildest dreams. This is no hype, but practical application over a long period of many years. But let us return to the studies and learn how to extract remedies for this Utopian type of gardening and see if it can be turned into a reality. Reductionist it may be, but we shall see how this limited view is possibly only in the eye of the beholder. Seen from a higher perspective, even titbits of information may hold the key to the development of suitable remedies.
Soils have structural and biological properties that make for differences with what we call rocks, although these have been the parent material. Most soils originate from sediments and thus they are as different as the mountains from which they once came. Some have amassed sediments from different rock over which they have passed on their way to the sea, while others have side arms that come from different sources in different types of mountains. Hence the soils in the plains are as different as the sediments brought with the rivers. Nonetheless, we call sedimentary soils from rivers, river-clay and ascribe certain properties to it, such as very fertile, not too heavy like sea-clay and easier to work, but not very porous – often lacking in organic matter – leading sometimes to damping off, even at more advanced ages.
Soils are dynamic systems, providing plants with support, nutrients, air and water, housing distinctive populations of flora and fauna, microorganisms and fungi involved in recycling organic matter produced by other living entities. All spatial and temporal scales on which the major influences defining that environment depend, which includes the soil, are dependent on the physical, chemical and surface properties of their components, such as minerals, organic matter, water, gases and living organisms. It is a complete system in which all components cooperate in maintaining that soil in its state, while their additions to that soil change it in a gradual process. An acidic soil attracts sorrels, which gradually make the acidic soil more alkaline. Each soil has what are called pioneer plants, which enter first and alter the pH of the soil, making it suitable for other plants to live.
Ultimately the origins of our soils can be traced back to the weathering of igneous rock, such as diorite and granite, sedimentary rock, such as limestone and sand stone, or metamorphic rock, such as marble and slate. This weathering process produces coarse to fine particles, such as gravels, sand, clays and silts, which are often composed of only minerals. These minerals are always or nearly so, crystalline compound substances, which consist of oxygen, silicon and aluminium, sometimes with appreciable amounts of other minerals, such as iron, calcium, sodium, potassium or magnesium. These eight elements comprise 98% of igneous rocks, while the minor elements, such as phosphorus, titanium or manganese are generally less than 1%. Silicon oxide is the most abundant mineral in all igneous rocks, while the other six elements vary with the mineral composition of their originating rocks. For instance the dominant minerals found in limestone are of course calcite CaCO3, quartz, SiO2, clays and calcium.
Soil texture is dependent on particle size, which we note when we investigate some soils like clay, clay loam or sandy clay loam; the particle density, weight of the solid particles divided by the total volume of the particles [which does not include pore space]; bulk density, weight of the soil divided by the total volume [including pore space]. This bulk density runs from 1 to 1.8 g/cm fro mineral soils; because organic matter is highly porous and has a particle density of 1.2 to 1.5 g/cm, the incorporation of organic matter into mineral soil will generally decrease both particle and bulk density. A typical mineral soil has 45% minerals, 5% organic matter and 50% pore space.
It takes a long time to build up what now are our soils on which we grow food – from a few 10.000s to hefty millions of years, depending on the makeup of our soils. Rivers break down stones in very fine particles over a relatively short period, since water is both very powerful and moving. On the other hand, soils built up over coastal areas may take a relatively longer period to build up truly, because the sediment is thin and storms may wash away what has been built up over a long period. Where river sediments are accumulated faster, they are courser than sediments from the sea. Particle density is greater in sea clay than in river clay.
Much of this material has been brought where it is by gravity, water, wind and other means to accumulate and be deposited as soils with sufficient depth to accommodate for the development of horizons. Horizons form because they have accumulations of organic matter on the topsoil, which are decomposed and incorporated in the rest of the soil, causing transformation of soil minerals from physical and chemical weathering, undergone as part of the cycle of life that lives in our soils. The capillary and/or gravitational movement of water soluble and water suspended substances from the top soil layers to those below and the transformation of these substances by fungi, bacteria and microbes for the benefit of plant life, incorporates other substances in the lower layers of soil. There are five major recognisable horizons but we shall restrict ourselves to the top three, because they are important for plant life.
Looking at a vertical section of soil, the first thing that demands the attention is the variation of colour and a certain amount of dead organic matter, a host of living entities, structure and porosity as well as the extent of weathering and erosion. These elements form distinct layers which are known as horizons. Three of these are usually taken into account.
This is the upper region. Here the greatest biological, physical and chemical activity takes place. The major portion of living entities, organic matter and chemical reaction are found here. A host of insects, earthworms, protists, nematodes and decomposer organisms all contribute to the decomposition of leaves, twigs, bark and wood.
Plant scientists have gathered sufficient data to understand the behaviour of the different soil components and have given us a tentative overview. This overview includes the reaction of soil components with simple phenolic acids. We may first determine the value of such a reductionist approach. When they draw conclusions based on their evidence, they are limited, because they always use the same plants for the same assays, because they respond well. When designing a scientific study, it is imperative to not only study in vitro, but foremost in vivo, where the circumstances can still be manipulated, such as in a greenhouse setting or even in the open field, where the circumstances are most like real-life.
The role of organic acids in the interactions of the life within the soil is the subject of study and we shall see how the findings have important remedies to furnish for agrohomoeopathic cultivation of food crops. There is some uncertainty about the role of organic acids in the soil in some circles, because they do not understand how to look at the whole. The test substances are phenolic acids and others in the role as allelopathic agents in the soil. These acids are the ones we have to keep an eye on to discover new remedies.
In this chapter we describe soil system characteristics of interest, such as the nature of the mineral soils with emphasis on organic matter, soil organisms, soil processes and root anatomy, morphology, growth and development. We shall discuss how water-soluble allelochemicals, particularly organic acids, are influenced by these soil system characteristics.
There is plenty of phenolic acid literature as can be seen from the Bibliography and this is the type we have studied to come to our conclusions. The behaviour of phenolic acid in the soil is a good indicator how other potential allelochemicals would behave, such as acetic acid, butyric acid, citric acid, formic acid, fumaric acid, lactic acid, malonic acid, proprionic acid, tannic acid and tartaric acid. Some of them we have already tried out in a past, such as acetic, lactic and citric acids and if their action is anything to go by, we might have here a range of remedies for weeds and chlorosis problems, respiration problems and photosynthesis impairment. We may expect action on fungi and bacterial rots and possibly an aid in fruit setting. This we deduce from the fact that acids and fungi do not always like each other and that the acids so far used were all excellent for the problems mentioned. Formic acid has been used as Formica rufa, to keep away ants and to lure them to traps, but never as a remedy on any plants. Let us discover what the other party found in their research on these acids.
Undecomposed, and partially decomposed organic layer that forms just on top of the soil. This is the layer where nutrients and small particles of organic matter are deposited. This process uses percolation, or moving down through the soil. It is self-evident that when much less organic matter is available erosion is maximised, while when organic matter is plentiful erosion is reduced to a minimum. Here insects and fungi decompose the organic substances, such as leaves, twigs, ashes, dead insect and animal bodies and straw, old blossoms and other organic material. In this horizon life is a feast and all partake. Worms from below come up and roll up leaves, which they drag into the ground and consume to their heart’s content. Insects chew on twigs to extract the last bits of sap and fungi overcome leaves, corpses and other material to reduce it to its basic components, after which it is further worked into the ground.
There are millions of different living entities per cm3 and they all have their function in reducing organic matter to its basic components suitable for plant life in a production/reduction cycle we call life. We see also a great variety among them, because there are so many different functions to fulfil in the subterranean world. Plants need nutrients in small sizable bites – not much larger and in similar suspension in colloids as homoeopathic remedies. Bacteria release the nutrients from the organic substrate in a reduction cycle, which the plant then consumes through a reaction cycle – the exact opposite from the bacteria. Viruses are the police force of the plant world, much as they function in humans. It is of course illogical to assign causal qualities to an entity, which is abundant at the final stage of disease and is therefore as much a result as all other symptoms. We have learned in primary school that cause and result are always two different things.
Fungi are of course the prime decomposers. We shall later return to these fascinating entities. For now we mention them because of the problems faced by crops – fungal attack. On a bare soil, the fungi have nothing to eat and since survival is the name of the game, they will attack the living plants, because there is nothing else to eat. Hence it is forced by agricultural practices to attack the crop. Making sure there is enough organic matter would keep the fungi in check, since they have other things to eat.
Even homeopathy can do little against deliberate faulty practise and not implementing the recommendations is to really believe in a truly Utopian farm – where one does not have to abandon faulty practice but hopes to redress everything with homoeopathic remedies. However, “He must be capable of removing the causes, such as bad habits, undernourishment and exposure to mental and emotional aggravating circumstances and if he is able to remove them he is a true practitioner of the healing arts.” (Hahnemann)
Hence we must redress the situation not just by giving homoeopathic remedies, but by removing faulty practices and bad habits, replacing them with sound practices and disciplined plant husbandry. Where we now are faced with the ultimate famine, we can still undo the damage and pretty fast too. We have to be on the ball though and implement proper practice wherever we have the opportunity. It is not too late yet, but if we wait too long it certainly will be harder to change.
The lowest horizon is where excess elements are leached out. It consists of larger particles of rock of any one kind; sand, lime or basalt, to name but a few, gravel and other debris. For the purpose of this book only the two top layers are of significance.
Dependent on the amount of organic matter, a soil is either a sponge or it is not. From an ecological point of view, bare soil cultivation, with little or no organic content, adds to global warming, because of its low water retention properties. A soil that acts as a sponge, cools down the air directly above it, thus helping plants to cope better with heat, reducing evaporation, both of the soil and the plant. Reflection is reduced to the minimum possible, if sufficient organic matter is suspended in the soil, while the lack of it increases reflection of heat. Also dependent on the content of organic matter is the determination about the quality of the soil – whether it is active or passive. Modern agricultural practises have produced vast tracts of passive soils, because nutrients have been given priority in the growth of plants. Soil is however much more than a medium in which to suspend nutrients.
Dead soils – the ultimate in passivity – have no organic content, and little if any microbial life, which, for want of its proper food source, will attack living plants, creating a host of plant diseases, while the insects are more or less forced into a similar pattern of maintaining themselves. This reverse position requires a drastic turn of events, if the agricultural endeavour is to produce healthy crops and turn it into a viable enterprise, both economically and ecologically.
Soil is very dependent on light and air, however strange this may appear. Air and light are usually associated with above ground phenomena. Yet without light and air, even in the soil, essential elements to life are left out, which plants require for their immune systems. Science knows much more about the part of plants, which grows above ground than about the roots, although this picture is changing fast. The processes in the roots are fairly well known, but little is known about the interaction of soil and root. The emphasis is placed on the nutrients, while the pH – determining the acidity or alkalinity of the soil – is studied only in the context of the nutrient levels. Structure, biological activity and organic content are studied only in relation to these same levels, while the knowledge thus gathered is used only to ‘improve’ the manufacture, synthetic or otherwise, of the nutrients.
The homoeopathic approach is systemic – it does not compartmentalize the soil into plants and nutrients, nor does it limit itself to organic content and biomass. Although they are essential building blocks forming a healthy soil, other non-visible elements, perceivable only by their results, are included as well. We have bacteria and viruses, allelochemicals pheromones and pollinators, predators and pests, companion plants and elemental substances that all form part of that systemic approach. From the totality of symptoms we derive as much information as we can. We know when a plant releases certain chemicals to achieve a phase of its development or to defend itself against pest and disease attack. We also know that certain diseases only come with certain weather types and that pests follow fertilizer gifts, especially Kali and Phosphorus. Because we have this knowledge at our fingertips, we are capable of determining which plant or other remedy to use in a particular situation. In the case of a developmental problem, we seek out a remedy made from a plant or an element that would be released around that time and so influence that development in a positive manner. In the case of tomatoes, one gives a dose of Phosphorus, because it is bloom time. Promptly, the poor plant is infested with aphids and Coccinella is the remedy. In the same tomatoes when it goes from flowers to fruits, we need Ocimum to do the trick, because basil releases a chemical in the soil when the tomato sets fruit. It is through viewing such relations that we can understand and deal with problems arising in the growing of our crops. We imitate nature and provide an environment that resembles the natural one as close as possible. This is the secret of growing crops in the best possible manner – employ the relations of elemental nutrients, plants and insects to recreate a virtual diverse environment in which the circumstances are as close to nature as possible.
This consists of plant debris, as we have seen, dead animals, insects, and other biological entities. This forms the food of a host of other insects, such as ants, slaters, snails and slugs, many fungi, as moulds and mildews, bacteria and viruses. These organisms are called collectively decomposers – they break down organic matter into smaller particles and compounds, which in turn are processed into the various nutrients. They are always in relation to and in connection with the organisms which produce them. These organisms release these nutrients in a steady stream, to feed the plants. Fine particles of organic matter cling to the roots also and any plant is a decomposer in its own right. The roots, through the process of growth, bring light and air into the soil, together with the rest of the biomass. Microorganisms are of two types; aerobic and anaerobic, the former needs air to function properly, while the latter needs carbon dioxide for the same purpose.
Many of the ‘pests’, identified because of their habit to feed on our food crops, are actually supposed to feed on organic debris, just as that is the function of fungi, bacteria and viruses. In the absence of dead organic matter these organisms are forced to feed on living plants, in order to restore the imbalance, created by bare soil cultivation. In nature, the sum total of events is designed to maintain balance. Balance means even spacing, because it will prevent the crowding of one particular species. Monocultures are designed to outdo natural arrangements. Space in nature tends to be occupied by as great a variety as the natural habitat allows. Through this mechanism nature limits disease and the consequent elimination of any one species of plant, insect or animal. Too many plants or animals of the same species occupying too small or large a space triggers the mechanism that prevents breeding and makes up for excess through more rapid death, by means of pests and diseases.
All stable natural systems have those switches, but not all populations do. In Australia we see this in the rapid explosion of the rabbit and cane toad populations. In agriculture, species like the locust, the aphid or the Colorado beetle, rodents like rats and mice display the phenomenon that when provided with sufficient food, will rapidly produce enormously more young than the available food supply. A farmer sowing a crop of their favourite food supply creates a situation where there is a massive reduction in the infant mortality rate of the pest.
Fluctuation implies relationship, because there is a flow between the living beings in an ecosystem. As man exploits nature he disturbs the flow, when his dealings are disharmonious. Thus man is at war with nature, while he could do much better if he sees her as a lover. Harvesting from nature can be seen as another form of natural death within an ecosystem, provided the spacing between plants is kept as natural as possible. In this way nature can be fooled into believing that harvesting is an absolutely natural occurrence, similar to grazing and foraging animals. To this end it is imperative that the immediate surroundings of food crops are as natural as possible.
Microorganisms such as bacteria, bacilli and viruses are also present in the soil, some in very large numbers. It has been shown that in 1cm2 of soil as many as a billion bacteria may live, although numbers may vary from 10000 to a million as common occurrences. Depending on where the soil has been collected – the rhizosphere being more densely populated than the soil without any roots – these numbers increase with the amount of biological activity.
Thus in soils that have little or no plant growth, these numbers are very low and in a mixed biosphere of plants the numbers are consequently high. We shall return to these entities when discussing the plant’s physiology.
The microorganisms are involved in reaction/reduction cycles, making nutrients available or unavailable to plants. Such is dependent for a large part on the soil pH. Acidic soils have fewer elements available to plants with increasing acidity. Alkaline soils may also be entirely inactive in the release of nutrients, depending on the microorganisms present. It has been shown by many researchers that the activity of microorganisms is highly dependent on soil pH because the level of pH determines which organisms are present in the soil and hence how reaction/reduction cycles take place.
The organisms of the fungal lineage include mushrooms, rusts, smuts, puffballs, truffles, morels, moulds, and yeasts, as well as many less well-known organisms (Alexopoulos et al., 1996). More than 70,000 species of fungi have been described; however, some estimates of total numbers suggest that 1.5 million species may exist (Hawksworth, 1991; Hawksworth et al., 1995).
Phylogeny modified from James et al., 2006a, 2006b; Liu et al., 2006; Seif et al., 2005; Steenkamp et al., 2006.
Containing group: Eukaryotes
The following tree diagram shows the relationships between several groups of fungal organisms:
As the sister group of animals and part of the eukaryotic crown group that radiated about a billion years ago, the fungi constitute an independent group equal in rank to that of plants and animals. They share with animals the ability to export hydrolytic enzymes that break down biopolymers, which can be absorbed for nutrition. Rather than requiring a stomach to accomplish digestion, fungi live in their own food supply and simply grow into new food as the local environment becomes nutrient depleted.
The root of the current tree connects the organisms featured in this tree to their containing group and the rest of the Tree of Life. The basal branching point in the tree represents the ancestor of the other groups in the tree. This.ancestor diversified over time into several descendent subgroups, which are represented as internal nodes and terminal taxa to the right.
Most biologists have seen dense filamentous fungal colonies growing on rich nutrient agar plates, but in nature the filaments can be much longer and the colonies less dense. When one of the filaments contacts a food supply, the entire colony mobilizes and reallocates resources to exploit the new food. Should all food become depleted, sporulation is triggered. Although the fungal filaments and spores are microscopic, the colony can be very large with individuals of some species rivalling the mass of the largest animals or plants.
Prior to mating in sexual reproduction, individual fungi communicate with other individuals chemically via pheromones. In every phylum at least one pheromone has been characterized and they range from sesquiterpines and derivatives of the carotenoid pathway in chytridiomycetes and zygomycetes to oligopeptides in ascomycetes and basidiomycetes.
A PRIMARY DECOMPOSER
Within their varied natural habitats fungi usually are the primary decomposer organisms present. Many species are free-living saprobes (users of carbon fixed by other organisms) in woody substrates, soils, leaf litter, dead animals and animal exudates. The large cavities eaten out of living trees by wood-decaying fungi provide nest holes for a variety of animals and extinction of the ivory billed woodpecker was due in large part to loss, through human activity, of nesting trees in bottom land hardwoods. In some low nitrogen environments several independent groups of fungi have adaptations such as nooses and sticky knobs with which to trap and degrade nematodes and other small animals. A number of references on fungal ecology are available (Carroll and Wicklow, 1992; Cooke and Whipps, 1993; Dix and Webster, 1995).
However, many other fungi are biotrophs and in this role a number of successful groups form symbiotic associations with plants (including algae), animals (especially arthropods), and prokaryotes. Examples are lichens, mycorrhizae and leaf and stem endophytes. Although lichens may seem infrequent in polluted cities, they can form the dominant vegetation in Nordic environments and there is a better than 80% chance that any plant you find is mycorrhizal. Leaf and stem endophytes are a more recent discovery, and some of these fungi can protect the plants they inhabit from herbivory and even influence flowering and other aspects of plant reproductive biology. Fungi are our most important plant pathogens, and include rusts, smuts, and many ascomycetes such as the agents of Dutch elm disease and chestnut blight. Among the other well-known associations are fungal parasites of animals. Humans, for example, may succumb to diseases caused by Pneumocystis (a type of pneumonia that affects individuals with suppressed immune systems), Coccidioides (valley fever), Ajellomyces (blastomycosis and histoplasmosis), and Cryptococcus (cryptococcosis) (Kwon-Chung and Bennett, 1992).
Fungal spores may be actively or passively released for dispersal by several effective methods. The air we breathe is filled with spores of species that are air dispersed. These usually are species that produce large numbers of spores, and examples include many species pathogenic on agricultural crops and trees. Other species are adapted for dispersal within or on the surfaces of animals (particularly arthropods). Some fungi are rain splash or flowing water dispersed. In a few cases the forcible release of spores is sufficient to serve as the dispersal method as well. The function of some spores is not primarily for dispersal, but to allow the organisms to survive as resistant cells during periods when the conditions of the environment are not conducive to growth.
Fungi are vital for their ecosystem functions, some of which we have reviewed in the previous paragraphs. In addition a number of fungi are used in the processing and flavouring of foods (baker’s and brewer’s yeasts, Penicillia in cheese-making) and in production of antibiotics and organic acids. Other fungi produce secondary metabolites such as aflatoxins that may be potent toxins and carcinogens in food of birds, fish, humans, and other mammals.
A few species are studied as model organisms that can be used to gain knowledge of basic processes such as genetics, physiology, biochemistry, and molecular biology with results that are applicable to many organisms (Taylor et al., 1993). Some of the fungi that have been intensively studied in this way include Saccharomyces cereviseae, Neurospora crassa, and Ustilago maydis.
Most phyla appear to be terrestrial in origin, although all major groups have invaded marine and freshwater habitats. An exception to this generality is the flagellum-bearing phyla Chytridiomycota, Blastocladiomycota, and Neocallima-stigomycota (collectively referred to as chytrids), which probably had an aquatic origin. Extant chytrid species also occur in terrestrial environments as plant pathogenic fungi, soil fungi, and even as anaerobic inhabitants of the guts of herbivores such as cows (all Neocallimastigomycota).
Fungi are characterized by non-motile bodies (thalli) constructed of apically elongating walled filaments (hyphae), a life cycle with sexual and asexual reproduction, usually from a common thallus, haploid thalli resulting from zygotic meiosis, and heterotrophic nutrition. Spindle pole bodies, not centrioles, usually are associated with the nuclear envelope during cell division. The characteristic wall components are chitin (beta-1,4-linked homopolymers of N-acetylglucosamine in microcrystalline state) and glucans primarily alpha-glucans (alpha-1,3- and alpha-1,6- linkages) (Griffin, 1994).
Exceptions to this characterization of fungi are well known, and include the following: Most species of chytrids have cells with a single, smooth, posteriorly inserted flagellum at some stage in the life cycle and centrioles are associated with nuclear division. The life cycles of most chytrids are poorly studied, but some (Blastocladiomycota) are known to have zygotic meiosis (therefore, alternation between haploid and diploid generations). Certain members of Mucoromycotina, Ascomycota, and Basidiomycota may lack hyphal growth during part or all of their life cycles, and, instead, produce budding yeast cells. Most fungal species with yeast growth forms contain only minute amounts of chitin in the walls of the yeast cells. A few species of Ascomycota (Ophiostomataceae) have cellulose in their walls, and certain members of Blastocladiomycota and Entomophthoromycotina lack walls during part of their life cycle (Alexopoulos et al., 1996).
So far the nature of fungi and some of their different classes, of which the Ascomycota, Chitridomycota and Microsporidia but also the Zygomycota with its subclass Mucoromycotina are of interest to us. This is because the first class is used for antibiotics and the next two classes are known for their ability to cause disease. However, before we proceed further with the antibiotics, we first like to impress upon the reader the dangers of fungi that may infest our grains, which are related to antibiotics and for which orthodoxy has no treatment or cure.
We have seen from the above that there are several phylae in the Class of fungi that each has large amounts of different families of fungi, with countless individual species. Many of these live in the soil, and another portion spends its life on decomposing plant and animal debris, while another class of fungi attacks living plants, such as rusts, smuts, phytophtera, and other fungal diseases of plants.
We continue with the history of these fungal diseases on grains, with which the first ‘cure’ with antibiotics spontaneously took place. For these belong in the class of Ascomycota, like all penicillins and most other antibiotics. From the above tree, these fungi are the ones that have our interest here. The basidiomycota are their close brothers, and some of these fungi also have found employ as medicines, of which the two under discussion in this book.
In the past as well as the present, most grains were and are prone to fungal diseases of which ‘mother corn’ or secale cereale, also known as claviceps purpurea, is the most famous, since it is surmised that it was also the precursor to LSD. While superficially similar in chemical structure, the effects of these two substances could not be further removed from each other as they are. In accordance with its common name, secale cereale lives on grains mainly.
Before we proceed, we must mention another fungal disease of corn or maize, which is called smut. This is possibly worse than ergot poisoning, as eating anything made with the grains has severe repercussions, as we shall see.
Darnel is another grain implicated in fungal diseases. It was often eaten when the other grain harvests had been eaten by pests and a famine threatened. It also had serious consequences..
In the soil above this horizon the nutrients and allelochemicals are deposited. In general ten of the elements are believed to be nutrients. These ten elements, carbon hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen, potassium, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, sulfur and iron, were about a hundred years ago designated as essential elements for plant growth. In the early 1900s manganese was added. The importance of silica has only recently, around 1985, received the full attention it deserves. At present we know that copper, boron and molybdenum play an important role as well, while for some plants cobalt and aluminum are necessary. In speaking of inorganic nutrients, it follows that there must be organic forms as well. Little is said about them in the textbooks, maybe due to the fact that inorganic chemistry is not interested in the investigation of the organic content of the elements.
Although chemical analysis is useful to determine the relative amounts of nutrients in certain stages of growth of the healthy plant in natural surroundings, it is by no means an exclusive yardstick, as different plants have different requirements in different ecosystems.
Deficiencies will create havoc in equal manner as excesses. The homoeopathic approach requires that which is natural to a particular ecosystem. In some the soil may be dead, as in the desert, or rich, as in the rainforest. Soils are as individual as the plants that prefer a particular type. Thus the soil type is the first point of investigation, together with its structure and the amount of biomass. In the case of dead soils, much can be done to revive it, by the selection of the appropriate remedy.
It is difficult to compare pH readings in water to pH readings in calcium chloride. A rough guide to convert from pHw to pHCa is to subtract 0.8 from the pH in water measurement (although the real difference in pH at extreme may be from 0.6 to 1.2).
A 1:5 mix of soil: CaCl2 solution (0.01M strength calcium chloride) strength is used to estimate the concentration of hydrogen ions in the soil solution.
SYMPTOMS OF TOPSOIL ACIDITY
â€¢ Nodulation failure of legumes – reddening of stems and petioles on pasture legumes, or yellowing and death of oldest leaves on grain legumes indicate nitrogen deficiency.
â€¢ Deficiency symptoms of sulphur, phosphorus, molybdenum, calcium or magnesium.
â€¢ Root growth poor, with stubby roots and few fine roots.
â€¢ Crop yields/pasture growth are poor even in good seasons.
The pH scale is logarithmic, so a soil pH of 4.5 has 10 times the concentration of H+ ions than a soil of pH 5.5.
INFLUENCE OF PH ON NUTRIENT AVAILABILITY
Plant nutrient availability varies quite dramatically with soil pH.
In very acid soils all the major plant nutrients (nitrogen (N), phosphorous (P), potassium (K), sulfur (S), calcium (Ca) and manganese (Mn)) and also trace element molybdenum (Mo), may be unavailable to plants, or only available in limited quantities. The other trace elements may be available in such soils in quantities sufficient to have a toxic effect. Some non-essential elements, notably aluminium may also be available in toxic amounts in acid soils.
The picture is reversed in alkaline soils where the trace elements iron, manganese, copper, zinc and boron, so readily available in acid soils, may be unavailable to plants, even though they are present in the soil in adequate amounts and molybdenum is readily available.
SYMPTOMS OF SUBSOIL ACIDITY
â€¢ Poor root growth (stubby and few fine roots) below 10 cm. Roots are often restricted to the topsoil area for no physical reason (e.g. no hardpan layers or tight clays that may normally stop root growth) since roots will not grow into a soil layer of high acidity.
â€¢ Crops drought easily since they have no deep roots.
â€¢ Crop yields are poor if spring is dry.
Molybdenum defeciency in kai lan and pak choi: leaf blade narrows and distorts, sometimes thickens; leaf stalks may be twisted.
The soils suitable for pulse crops (field pea, albus lupin, chickpea, faba bean and lentil) are loam and clay soils that occur in about 25% of the 18 million hectares used for agriculture in southwestern Australia. They are amongst the most fertile soils used for agriculture in WA. In addition, field pea is also successfully grown on marginally acidic sandy duplex soils (sand over loam or clay) in the region, and is by far the most widely grown pulse crop in WA.
The soils usually contain more than adequate potassium, sulphur, copper, and molybdenum for crops and pastures, with phosphorus and zinc being the only nutrient element deficiency problems when the soils were newly cleared.
Loam and clay soils, other than those mentioned in some zones, do not generally require copper, zinc or molybdenum, although isolated deficiencies of zinc have been reported.
60 g of molybdenum is contained in 150 g of sodium molybdate, or in 112 g of molybdenum trioxide.
Nutrients have different mobility in the soil and as seasonal moisture conditions vary, so too does the distribution of nutrients derived from applied fertilisers.
Soils differ in their nutrient holding capacity, both generally and for specific plant nutrients.
Most nutrients are essential for certain functions of plant life; be it photosynthesis, growth or metabolism. Some plants are characterised by unusual higher or lower concentrations of (a) particular nutrient(s).I t is therefore self evident that plants have different requirements amongst each other, even if grown in the same medium. Because of the complexity of the biomass it may appear that for instance alfalfa benefits from a nitrogen boost, as it is a nitrogen fixing plant. However, alfalfa can only take up the nitrogen provided by soil-bacteria, which would suffer a redundancy with a nitrogen boost, leaving the plant nitrogen deficient. Other plants, called C4 plants, require sodium instead of potassium, or at least to a greater extent. Atriplex, also known as saltbush, is one of several halophytes, which requires salt to properly grow. Salt is pumped from the leaf tissue through the stalk into large expanding bladder cells. Soybeans, when deprived of nickel, will develop toxic levels of urea, resulting in necrosis in the leaf tips, and reduce growth.
Inorganic ions affect osmosis and thus help water balance (see Nat.m., and others like Sul. and the Kali preps.) Because several inorganic ions can serve this purpose, independent from each other, in many different plants, it is understood to be non-specific. On the other hand, an inorganic element may function as part of an essential biological molecule and as such its necessity is highly specific. As an example, magnesium presence in the chlorophyll molecule is highly essential to and in photosynthesis. Magnesium is strongly attracted to light and helps oxidation in the form of the oxide, thus enhancing oxygen production and release.
Some elements are essential to the structure of cell-membranes, while others control the function of these membranes, such as permeability. The enzyme systems in plants require specific elements to be present, while others again provide the ionic tension, required for certain biological reactions. Deficiencies affect a wide variety of structures and functions, as do excesses. This is because they fill such basic needs and processes essential to healthy growth and strong immune systems in the plant body.
One of the key roles elements play, is in the participation as catalysts in enzymatic processes. They can be an essential part in the enzyme structure. They can also function as activators and regulators of enzymes. Potassium is thought for instance to be involved in some 50 to 60 enzymes and is believed to regulate the production of some proteins. As biologists look at the single elements, the interactions between different elements, such as the compounds, like nitrate of potassium or the phosphate of sodium are little understood. In the homoeopathic scenario, these differences in action between for instance the Kali salts enable us to fine tune the treatment to a greater degree of accuracy. Thus not only can the change in shape of the enzyme expose or obstruct the reaction site, it will do so and be the cause of some forms of disease.
Many of the biochemical activities of cells, such as starch and protein production, photosynthsis and respiration fall within the class of oxidation – reduction processes. Some elements serve as structural components such as calcium and silica Calcium combines with pectic acid, to form the lamella in the plant cell wall. Silica gives the skeletal strength to a plant, as is found in the haulm the cambium and the skin of seeds. Phosphorus is found in the sugar phosphate chains of both DNA and RNA, but its function is by no means limited to providing the backbone of the genetic material. Backbone function is also found in the hardest parts of the plant, such as bark and cambium. Too much or too little phosphorus causes degeneration, a generative function as the word implies. Nitrogen is an essential component of amino acids, chlorophyll and nucleotides. Sulfur is also found in amino acids, thus forming a component of proteins.
Plants use elements – mostly in compounds – from the Periodic Table of Elements, just as humans and animals do. However, they don’t use every element of the Periodic Table, but are restricted to the first four Periods, as the table below shows. In those Periods, they also do not use every element, but are further restricted to only some.
|â€”â€”- VIII â€”â€”-|
â€”â€”- 8 â€”â€”-
From the first Period, only Hydrogen has any significance, whereas Helium is not found in plants. From the second Period, Boron is significant, Carbon is a main constituent, Nitrogen a major nutrient and Oxygen a major elemental substance they exhale during the day while at night it is inhaled. Oxygen is an important element in all living entities, for it enables respiration and helps in oxidation/reduction cycles.
From the third Period, Natrium has some importance; Magnesium and Aluminium, Silica and Phosphor, as well as Sulphur are plant constituents.
In the fourth Period, we see as the first element Kalium, next Manganese, Ferrum, Copper and Zinc are the elements with significance. All other elements have not been discovered to play a role in plant life.
Naturally, the compounds, consisting of salts and acids have an important role to play in plant life, since few elements are taken up in their pure forms. Plants, like all life forms, do not assimilate elements in their pure form, since the oxidation/reduction cycles do not work with pure elements by their very nature. In the following chapter we shall introduce these elements in their pure form however, to show their importance in plant life as part of the different compounds that have significance.
Of the compounds there are many more than of the pure elements, but we shall not be repetitive in always enumerating their constituents. All elements to the right of the Period’s peak element, which is always a noble metal, react with oxygen to form and acid, while those to the right of the peak produce a salt. Salts and acids are the constituents of the oxidation/reduction cycles and make these cycles possible. The Krebs cycle for instance works with only acids as its main constituents, many of which are however not found in the periodic table, while some are found to contain elements important to it.
Some plants contain a particular element in large amounts, which may not be found in others, such as clubmoss, which contains 28% of aluminium, or horsetail, which consists for 85% of Silica. Saltbush is one of the few plants that can live in an extremely salty environment where other plants would immediately perish. Hence the significance of the different elements differ from plant to plant, although most plants require similar amounts of nutrients. Some live on acid soils, while others prefer alkaline soils.
Although some plants take up several other elements from the rest of the Table, it must be noted that these are not counted as nutrients. Nutrients are only those elements that are found in sufficient amounts in all plants. Therefore, we do not consider these elemental fractions as nutrients, but as special capacities and characteristics of only some plants, notwithstanding their sometimes considerable amounts.
Jan Scholten, a Dutch homoeopath, has done extensive investigations on the presence of such elements in plants, which he collected in two slim volumes. What struck us as at least strange, was the absence of the element silica in many of his examples. We considered this strange, because all plants contain silica in significant amounts, since this element forms part of many plant structures, such as the cell walls, the cambium and the external covering of the roots. While interesting as a field of research, we do not consider his findings as very significant in the treatment of plant diseases and pests, because they are highly variable and differ greatly from plant to plant. He did his research more from the viewpoint of homoeopathic remedies, where such findings may have significance in the treatment of people.
The modern-day farmer is faced with ever-larger problems to produce a crop and still make sufficient money. Most need heavy subsidies to just break even. Since the beginning of the promising chemical revolution in agriculture, the problems have only increased. While first producing bigger crops, farmers have seen their lands produce ever-smaller crops, with ever greater losses to pests and diseases. While the traditional farmer lost 5 – 10% of his crop, the modern equivalent is happy if his losses stay below the 30% mark.
The soil has become poorer and the amounts of fertiliser added have become larger almost every year. The added problems of pests and diseases has further added to the farmer’s bills, since chemical pest-, disease- and weed-control measures must be repeatedly applied, to still have a minimal effect. Even the Agricultural Departments agree that commercial fertilisers are not ideal, to say the least.
‘Nutrients in the form of commercial fertilisers have several drawbacks associated with their use. We shall name them first, before we deal with the other problems associated with excesses and deficiencies of these chemically made elementary substances. They are volatilisation, leaching, time of application and the evenness of spreading.
‘Urea forms an alkaline zone around each granule as it breaks down. At this higher pH, the urea changes into ammonia gas (which contains nitrogen). If the urea is covered by soil, most of this ammonia will be absorbed by the soil. However, if the urea is on the soil surface, much of the nitrogen supplied by the urea can be lost to the atmosphere as ammonia. This process is known as volatilisation.
‘Volatilisation will occur only with urea on light soils, because these light soils are acidic. However, losses can occur with the other ammonium sources if they are top dressed on to alkaline soils such as sands. Losses by volatilisation will vary according to conditions at the time.
‘Losses can be avoided if the urea is covered by soil soon after application or washed into the soil by a good rain following application. Maximum loss will occur when the urea is top dressed on moist, light soil and application is followed by an extended warm dry period.
‘Volatilisation losses from urea in the field will generally range from 0 to 20 per cent of the nitrogen applied. Where early application is advisable, avoid most of the loss by topdressing the urea before sowing and covering it during the seeding operation. Deep banding of urea will also avoid this loss.’
Our answer is that sensible applications of manure and compost, together with bio-dynamic soil preparations (see volume 5: ‘Weed and Soil Remedies’.) will remove the risk of volatilisation, since urea, ammonia and nitrogen form part of the manure and compost in the exact balanced amounts the plant needs.
‘Except on very poor sandy soils, little ammonium nitrogen is leached. However, nitrate nitrogen is very susceptible to leaching and urea can be leached while it remains as urea. On most soils, the urea will be completely converted to ammonium nitrogen within a week, with 90 per cent being converted in two to three days.
‘Ammonium nitrogen is converted by special bacteria to nitrate nitrogen by a process called nitrification. The rate of this conversion depends on several factors, including soil moisture and soil pH. The process is slow on low pH soils and rapid on alkaline soils. The more organic content, the faster the conversion.
‘Because of the greater acidifying effect of fertilisers such as ammonium sulphate, the ammonium nitrogen in these sources is less rapidly nitrified to nitrate than with less acidifying sources such as urea.’
The longer the nitrogen stays in the ammonium form, the less susceptible it is to leaching. However, any loss from leaching depends on the amount of nitrate present during leaching rains.
On the other hand, if the topsoil dries, the ammonium nitrogen that remains in this zone will not be available to the plant until the topsoil is rewetted, while nitrate nitrogen may be available because it has moved downward into a moist soil zone.
Drying out of soils can easily be avoided when compost is added in sufficient quantities. The application of compost and green manure also reduces the occurrence of bacterial, viral and fungal diseases. These will be kept busy decomposing plant debris and compost. Moreover, leaching is reduced to almost nil if manure and compost are added, while the need for extra gifts of chemical fertilisers is also removed.
TIME OF APPLICATION
‘Nitrogen-phosphorus fertilisers are usually applied at sowing, drilled with the seed, because phosphorus is needed in a band close to the seed at establishment.
‘Urea and other nitrogen-only sources should be applied within four weeks after sowing. In higher rainfall areas, where leaching is more likely, do not apply them before four weeks, unless a machine is unlikely to get on the land later. In that case, apply the nitrogen earlier.
‘Nitrogen is needed early in the life of the crop because the main response is through increased tillering, which is determined early. If application is delayed beyond four weeks after sowing, there is less chance of getting a profitable response.
‘The time of application is less critical where there is a reasonable supply of soil nitrogen than where fertility is very low. This is because the soil nitrogen supply may be enough to produce the tillers and set up the yield potential, while the nitrogen fertiliser is only needed to help realise that potential by ensuring survival of ear-bearing tillers.’
Naturally, it is better to use biodynamic sprays than chemical fertilisers, since soil microbial life is important in the processing of nutrients, before they are digestible to plants. To engage this microbial life in their normal occupation – digestion of organic matter – we need to add compost and manure, rather than try to adjust the fertiliser demands by adding chemicals in unbalanced proportions.
EVENNESS OF SPREADING
‘If any nitrogen fertilisers are topdressed, it is important to get an even spread. Spinner type spreaders often result in uneven distribution of fertiliser with more than the recommended rate in some places and less, or none, in other places. The overall response will be less than with even spreading, because the increased yield in the strips receiving high fertiliser rates will be less than the decreased yield in the strips getting lower rates of fertiliser.
‘It is important to get even distribution of fertiliser, even if it means using a combine to topdress.’
All these problems disappear when the farmer switches from commercial fertiliser to the one produced by his livestock for free and ages it properly. Old manure does not smell bad, attracts no flies and can be easily spread on the fields. When processed into B-500, cow manure can be used as a ‘top-dressing’ if such is desired or necessary. Its liquid form does not result in volatilisation, while a properly structured soil does not allow leaching.
”When you are choosing between nitrogen-phosphorus fertiliser sources, also consider: the ease of handling and storage; the rate of fertiliser that can be drilled in contact with the seed without a harmful effect on plant numbers and grain yield. Do not drill urea in contact with cereal seed, either alone or in mixtures, at rates greater than 30 kg/ha. No urea should be placed with canola seed. Canola germination is very susceptible to the soluble nitrogen fertilisers and especially to urea.
‘If there is doubt about the need for other nutrients such as sulphur and zinc and if you cannot check this easily, use sources containing these nutrients as an insurance, particularly if there is little difference in the cost of nitrogen and phosphorus supplied by the chosen fertilisers.”
Many times, the amount of water coming into the production system cannot be controlled. In these situations there are some simple techniques to conduct water away from plant crowns and roots to prevent the kind of environment that favors Phytophthora. Methods include planting on raised beds or mounds, planting in permeable, well-drained soils, using highly porous potting mixes, tiling poorly drained fields and sloped container beds. In each case, excess water drains away from plant crowns and roots before Phytophthora can become a problem. In any situation, planting raspberries on raised beds was as effective as chemical control of Phytophthora root rot.
”Soil layers such as hardpans impede drainage and often allow free water to accumulate above the hardpan. This sets up a favorable environment for Phytophthora infection. Preventing excess soil compaction – stopping using the tractor – or ripping or subsoiling these areas can help increase water drainage.”
Of course subsoiling and ripping are nullified by the tractor riding in the furrows. They are as such only a measure to be executed with draught animals; the better suited will be the bull. For such a large plow, a six span of bulls is necessary. Impractical and time consuming, ripping is really not the option. Such soils will be best improved by raising the organic content, since this will greatly improve drainage and break up the hardpan, if not too deep below the topsoil. Worms are better than plows in breaking up the soil and therefore it is only logical to increase their presence by adding humus, compost and old manure.
Considering the ease a farmer has when using the homoeopathic approach, combined with the right bio-dynamic preparations, it remains to those convinced of the correctness of this approach to convince the farmers. Generally it is the farmers’ wives, who convince their husbands. We may have to rely on them to convince their husbands of this way.
The only other convincing argument is that it saves the farmer a lot of money. However, as the Dutch remark; ‘the farmer will never eat what he does not know.’ Having been led to believe that alternatives to the modern chemical way means returning to his grandfather’s days he dismisses anything that to him reeks of ‘hippies, greens and other long-haired work-shy folk’.
Little do they realise that this is Future Farming, doing away with outdated ideas. This is science-fiction to most, but science-fact to the users and those involved in its development. Space-age in concepts and means, this goes beyond the concepts of those that think in mechanistic, rather than dynamic terms.
While mechanistic terms are inadequate to explain the dynamic processes at work, they have a practical function in that they provide the visible signs and symptoms, which due to similarities are sometimes difficult to distinguish from one another. Deficiencies demand their own terminology, explaining the visible signs and describing what has happened and is happening. Let us have a look at this terminology and see whether we can discover the differences and similarities.
TERMINOLOGY OF NUTRIENT DEFICIENCIES
General yellowing of the leaf tissue. A very common deficiency symptom, since many nutrients affect the photosynthesis process directly or indirectly.
Some deficiencies lower the amount of photosynthesis and chlorophyll which is produced by the plant. Other colored compounds can then become dominant. When normal nutrient sinks are not available, the plants can store up excess sugars within other compounds which have distinct colors of red, purple, or sometimes brown. The absence of chlorophyll altogether causes the plant to turn white.
Yellowing, followed by rapid death of lower leaves, moving up the plant and giving the same appearance as if someone touched the bottom of the plants.
Yellowing in between leaf veins, but with the veins themselves remaining green. In grasses, this is called striping.
Severe deficiencies result in death of the entire plant or parts of the plant first affected by the deficiency. The plant tissue browns and dies. This is called necrosis. The tissue which has already died on a still living plant is called necrotic tissue.
Many deficiencies result in decreased growth. This can result in shorter height of the affected plants.
FUNCTIONS OF THE 13 SOIL ELEMENTS
General soil science considers only the nutrients mentioned in this list. They do not consider many of the micronutrients, believing them to be insignificant to the maintenance of plant-life. There are elementary substances not mentioned at all among this list that are of equal if not more importance to plant life than those listed. We mention before everything Silicea, which is a formative nutrient of the first order. We consider it the key element in agriculture.
Silicea is an elemental substance not even considered in conventional agriculture. It is a formative substance. With formative we mean here the development of the plant, which is entirely regulated by the moon. In this connection it is important to remember that Silica has its aggravations at the new- and full-moon phases generally, while in some it may have an influence during the first and last quarters also.
Without Silicea no plant stays upright and it is of equal importance for germination and maintenance of the plant during its entire lifecycle. The flaws and shortcomings of the orthodox approach also do not consider the dynamics of plant life in general, nor do they look at anything specific, except that which confirms their prejudices. Nonetheless, we give here the orthodox notions regarding the micro- and macronutrients. As usual, they begin with the macronutrients. We take the opposite approach and begin with the trace elements.
Boron is important in sugar transport within the plant. It has a role in cell division, and is required for the production of certain amino acids, although it is not a part of any amino acid.
Molybdenum is needed for the reduction of absorbed nitrates into ammonia prior to incorporation into an amino acid. It performs this function as a part of the enzyme nitrate reductase. In addition to direct plant functions, molybdenum is also essential for nitrogen fixation by nitrogen-fixing bacteria in legumes. Responses of legumes to Molybdenum application are mainly due to the need by these symbiotic bacteria.
Zinc is a component of many enzymes. It is essential for plant hormone balance, especially auxin activity.
Copper is a component of enzymes involved with photosynthesis.
Plants use chlorine as chloride ion. Chloride is useful as a charge-balancing ion and for turgor regulation, keeping plant cells more free of infection by disease organisms. It is essential for photosynthesis.
An essential component of amino acids, and therefore all proteins. An essential component of nucleic acids, and therefore needed for all cell division and reproduction. Enzymes are specialized proteins, and serve to lower energy requirements to perform many tasks inside plants. Nitrogen is contained in all enzymes essential for all plant functions.
A component of the compound within plants which supplies the energy to grow and maintain the plant. Part of cell membranes, the structures which selectively keep out unneeded compounds and allow in those compounds which are needed for the plant cells to function correctly. A part of DNA and its relatives. Needed for cell division and for reproduction.
Potash is widely distributed and is formed in the feldspar and silicates and chlorides of the earth’ s crust. By the process of oxidation and hydration it becomes one of the most important ingredients of the soil for the sustenance and growth of plant life. When soils become deficient in potash, plant life languishes and becomes infected with destructive fungi, which end its existence. This is especially true in the growth and production of corn. And from observations made, it has been found that the sap channels of the stalk were clogged with iron deposits as a result of a lack of potash. When these potash-exhausted soils were supplied with potassium sulphate in sufficient quantities healthy corn would grow, flourish and mature free of fungi and disease.
But potash is equally essential to animal life and when it is deficient either from lack of supply or from faulty potassium metabolism the animal weakens and takes on many forms of disease which end in death. Even as the corn stalk sap channels becomes clogged and useless to distribute the life giving juices to the plant organism, so does the lymphatic system of the animal become impaired and blocked leaving the tissues wasting and non-resisitant to infective organisms, because the nourishing lymph is checked in its journey of repair if the normal potassium content is not present.
Clarke says that the potassium salts have more specific relation to the solid tissues than the fluids of the body; to the blood corpuscles rather than to the blood plasma. The fibrous tissues such as the ligaments and joints of the back and the ligaments of the uterus are all particularly affected. He also cites Kali-c. and Causticum as the two preparations that are most typical and profound in action and expression symptomatically of the potash group.
The potassium patient is anemic and weak, always tired and lacking stamina. His muscles are weak and easily strained. Potassium is found more abundantly in the red blood cells than in the blood plasma and its presence is essential to the hemoglobin balance in the red corpuscles; if the potassium is deficient there, hemoglobin breaks down and its iron content is released and oxidized and deposited in lymph channels and glands with impairment of function in these tissues. Without potassium the heartbeat would fail, small amounts stimulate, but large amounts weaken and inhibit. Potassium and the other alkaline minerals act in the maintenance of the alkali-acid balance of the organism. Also potassium is essential in the mechanism controlling the blood pressure and, still more important, it is one of the essential factors in the oxidation, that basic function of life where the interchange of gases take place in the body organism to produce and use all the multitudinous energies needed in the physiologic activities of repair and growth.
It activates certain enzymes. It regulates stomate opening, which in turn regulates air flow into the leaf and transpiration of water out of the leaf. it acts to balance charge between negatively and positively charged ions within plant cells. It regulates turgor pressure, which helps protect plant cells from disease invasion. In certain plants, potassium can be replaced by sodium.
Sulphur is a part of certain amino acids and all proteins. It acts as an enzyme activator and coenzyme (compound which is not part of all enzyme, but is needed in close coordination with the enzyme for certain specialized functions to operate correctly). It is a part of the flavour compounds in mustard and onion family plants.
Calcium is a part of cell walls and regulates cell wall construction. Cell walls give plant cells their structural strength. Enhances uptake of negatively charged ions such as nitrate, sulfate, borate and molybdate. It balances charge from organic anions produced through metabolism by the plant. Some enzymes are regulated by Ca-calmodulin.
Magnesium is the central element within the chlorophyll molecule. It is an important cofactor the production of ATP, the compound which is the energy transfer tool for the plant.
Iron is a component of the many enzymes and light energy transferring compounds involved in photosynthesis.
Manganese is a cofactor in many plant reactions. It is essential for chloroplast production.
Carbon may be last but is certainly not least, because without it there are no plants, nor any other life. It combines with almost everything and also with itself to form very stable compounds and is by far the most abundant of all life’s molecules, certainly so in plants.
MOBILITY OF PLANT NUTRIENTS
”Plant nutrients which can move from places where they are stored to places where they are needed are called plant mobile. Nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium are always plant mobile nutrients. Deficiencies are noticeable first on older tissue. Plant immobile element deficiencies are noticeable first on younger tissue. Calcium and boron are always plant immobile nutrients. Sulfur, chloride, copper, zinc, manganese, iron and molybdenum are intermediate in plant mobility. Under certain circumstances the intermediate elements are mobile. Mobility in intermediate elements may be linked to the breakdown under low nitrogen conditions of amino acids and proteins in older parts of the plant, and the mobility of these organic compounds to younger parts of the plant in the phloem stream. Under good nitrogen availability, these elements are mostly immobile.
VALUE OF PLANT NUTRIENT DEFICIENCY KEYS
”Use of this plant nutrient deficiency key should be considered, first as the first step toward understanding deficiency symptoms in the field, secondly as an educational tool to be used in conjunction with soil testing and plant analysis. Environmental stress such as drought, wet conditions, disease, heat and agro-chemical interactions can easily be misinterpreted as deficiency symptoms. Photographs of nutrient deficiencies are useful in diagnosis, but field experience and a knowledge of field history, based on local experience is the best diagnostic aid.
Here is a table I adapted from Jacobsen, Niels. AQUARIUM PLANTS (1979). Blandford Press Ltd.
COMMON SYMPTOMS OF NUTRIENT DEFICIENCY IN AQUATIC PLANTS
|Element||Leaves to first|
|Nitrogen||Old||Leaves turn yellowish (*)|
|Phosphorus||Old||Premature leaf fall-off|
Similar to nitrogen deficiency
|Calcium||New||Damage and die off of growing points|
Yellowish leaf edges
|Magnesium||Old||Yellow spots (*)|
|Potassium||Old||Yellow areas, then withering of leaf edges and tips|
|Sulphur||New||Similar to nitrogen deficiency|
|Iron||New||Leaves turn yellow|
Greenish nerves enclosing yellow leaf tissue
First seen in fast growing plants
|Manganese||(**)||Dead yellowish tissue between leaf nerves|
|Copper||(**)||Dead leaf tips and withered edges|
|Zinc||Old||Yellowish areas between nerves, Starting at leaf tip and edges|
|Boron||New||Dead shoot tips, new side shoots also die|
|Molybdenum||Old||Yellow spots between leaf nerves, then brownish areas along edges.|
(*) The plants may also become reddish from the presence of the red pigment anthocyanin.
(**) Although Jacobsen does not differentiate between new and old leaves, David Whittacker reports from a hydoponics book that boron, calcium, copper, iron, manganese and sulfur are immobile elements and whose deficiencies affect new leaves.
V.D. Kaviraj is a Dutch homeopath, author, researcher and pioneer in Agrohomeopathy. He has written textbooks on various aspects of homeopathy including “Homeopathy for Farm and Garden”.